Nikon Z Series Mirrorless System: New Free Quick-Start Guide & Why These May Be Transformational Tools

The Nikon DL pocket mirrorless cameras never happened but Nikon’s new mirrorless system has just been announced and as far as Nikon product introductions go, this one ranks up there with the big ones: The Nikon F in 1959; their first SLR, The Nikon D1 in 1999; their first digital SLR and The Nikon D3, their first full-frame DSLR which maybe not so coincidentally was introduced on this day, August 23rd, 11 years ago.

I’m preparing a new quick guide e-book which will have you up and running to take full advantage of the amazing features these new cameras bring to the photographic table. It will be sent to you free as a download as soon as it’s completed, hopefully before you take deliver of your new Nikon Z6 or Z7 mirrorless camera. To sign up, click on the cover below…

Click on the image above to reserve your copy of the new Nikon Z Mount Mirrorless Quick Guide

There was probably no one more disappointed than I when Nikon cancelled the DL cameras. I was one of the few people in the world who would ever shoot with one. At the time, I said on my blog…”It’s a pity, but I’m sure we will see some of the innovation from these cameras brought to future Nikon offerings. So stay tuned and I will be replacing this e-book with one on another new camera that Nikon puts out in the very near future…”

Well it seems the future is now.

I was expecting great things with the Z mount mirrorless system, and I am excited about what I know about these new mirrorless cameras. I have not seen or shot with the new cameras yet, but I’m going all in and fully committing to this new system based on the specs and my personal experience with previous incarnations of Nikon mirrorless including the Nikon 1 and DL cameras.

The beauty of the Nikon System for me is the ability to set-up and program each body for the way that I like to shoot, using features like Back-Button AF, Auto ISO, Easy Exposure Compensation and a myriad of other settings (which will be covered in the e-book) to simplify my process so I can react to the world around me quickly and get the shot.

This new system will allow me the flexibility I have with my Nikon D5 or D850 but adds the much smaller and lighter footprint that keeps me more stealthy when I’m traveling and out on the street shooting. I know from experience it will make my quest for five-star images easier and the camera brings with it some technical advantages over the already amazing DSLR’s I’m currently using.

Nikon has always been an optical lens company first and I had always thought it incredible that they’ve been able to maintain their seminal F-Mount without meaningful modification for the 60 years of its existence all the while keeping it current with sea-changes of technology innovation affecting all camera manufacturers.

So when you see the drastic difference in the new Z-Mount, it’s easy to imagine Nikon’s claim of future-proof for the next 100 years. As evidence, the forthcoming 58mm f0.95 S Noct lens is one I was very excited about because one of my all time favorite Nikkor lenses is the 58mm AF-S f1.4 G lens (see my review here). Somehow, the magic of a few extra millimeters has made all the difference for me. I never liked the “normal” 50mm point of view and my love for the 58mm means I rarely use my 85mm, abandoning it for the intimacy and close proximity to my subjects with the 58 for street portraits and general street shooting.

At an estimated cost upward of $6K and no AF, this lens won’t be for everybody. Curious how my beloved 58mm f1.4 performs with the adapter however. What do you think? Let me know your thoughts on the new system in the comments below.

But this lens will not be an AF lens and I think that is a deal-breaker for me. I don’t quite know what magic a 0.95 maximum aperture lens (the fastest in Nikon’s 100 year history) will provide but I ‘m looking forward to finding out and seeing how manual focus will work with this lens. If the focus peaking feature on the new cameras allows me to focus accurately and fast, I will consider one.

Photography has always meant compromise. If you want more depth of field you need to shoot at a slower shutter speed or higher ISO. But this new system offers much more to a DSLR user than it takes away.

Lenses are said to be superb, edge to edge. (The DL had a smaller sensor but amazing edge to edge sharpness even wide open). So if the 24-70mm f4 S lens is a stop slower than my beautiful 24-70mm f2.8E AF-S VR; but as sharp and much smaller in size, I can live with the stop loss. After all, these aren’t our Grandfather’s ISO numbers. (Z6 – native ISO range 100-51,200 with an extended range of ISO 50-204,800; Z7 – native ISO range 64–25600 with an extended range of ISO 32 -102400). All recent Nikon’s are remarkable at what used to be considered noise-inducing high-ISO numbers.

A 2.8 version of this 24-70mm f4 zoom will be coming in 2019. Bigger, heavier and more expensive no doubt.

I’ve long been jealous of the weight of a Leica shooter’s bag of tricks, where in a small case they could carry a full working range of gear with no compromise in quality. But I’m not a rangefinder-focusing guy so I’m thrilled that Nikon shooters will finally be able to do the same.

The Z6’s 273 and Z7’s 493 Autofocus Points will mean incredibly fast AF if my previous experience with Nikon mirrorless AF systems are any guide. My D850 and D5 set the standard and these new cameras promise even better AF performance. But the new system takes more of its cues from the live view AF shooting process of current Nikon DSLR cameras. This worries me just a bit as I like to keep control of my focus target in Single, Dynamic and Group Area AF rather than let the camera choose in Auto Area or 3D, which do work amazingly well by the way.

The new Z’s will have Pinpoint AF (The D850 has it in live view) Uses an AF point about half the size of single-point AF for precise focusing of non-moving subjects. It works in AF-S mode only.

Single-point AF is the most precise way to target your subject and with back button focus will track it’s movement as long as you keep the target AF Point on that moving subject.

When the action moves faster, you need more help tracking moving subjects and Dynamic-area AF is there to help. The faster and more erratic your subject moves, the more help or bigger array of points you need to keep your moving target sharp. The great thing about Dynamic is the camera knows where in the frame you’re trying to focus since you’re trying to place the priority sensor on your target. If the subject alludes that AF Point, other points from the array jump in taking over focus-tracking, keeping images sharp.

Group Area AF, a mode I’ve learned to love on my Nikon DSLR’s for very fast action is not available on the Z-Series cameras. There is a Wide-area AF option on the Z’s, so we will see just how practical and effective it proves to be. Group area AF is a wider/bigger single point essentially that has proven itself  extremely effective for super fast action as long as you get a piece of your speedy subject somewhere within the “group” of five AF points.

Auto-area AF. Both D and Z Nikons have it, and they have been getting better and better with each new model. But you have no control over what the camera focuses on, which is why I avoid it; focus is too important for me to hand that responsibility to the camera.

That said, I have been amazed just how intuitive the system has been with my Nikon 1 (and DL) cameras. I aim at the scene and the camera makes the right decision. It’s going to help that according to the press release that in Auto Area, the Z cameras use “information from all focus points, the camera automatically detects the main subject and focuses on it. When “On” is selected for “Auto-area AF face detection,” the camera automatically detects faces, and users can choose which face to focus on if there is more than one. Thanks to a newly developed face-detection and subject-tracking algorithm, the AF can keep tracking a subject’s face if they turn their head or briefly look away.”

It sounds very promising and I’m looking forward to putting it through it’s paces.

One of the biggest advantages of the new mirrorless AF system for me is the 90 per cent coverage area, something I really look forward to and expect it to make a positive difference in my work.

As far as resolution goes, the Z6 @ 24 and Z7 @ 45 megapixels maintain what I’m used to with my D5 and D850. The Z6’s fewer and bigger pixels will likely have the edge at higher ISOs and the Z7 allows me to make large high-resolution prints and find five-star images somewhere within a frame to be cropped and used with no real degradation of quality, something I love about my D850. Frame rates are fast, up to 9fps with the Z7 and 12 fps with the Z6, fast enough for most action shooters.

Some of the Z system’s unique to mirrorless features will be very practical, like the in-camera image stabilization with a 5 stop range of compensation that brings VR to Nikon lenses that don’t have it and allow future S lenses to be made smaller without the VR mechanism.

The new 0.5-inch Quad VGA OLED electronic viewfinder (EVF) and it’s 3.69 million dot display is said to be an easy transition for Nikon DSLR shooters looking through an electronic viewfinder for the first time. I expect this to be the case. A 3.2-inch tilt-angle touchscreen with  2.1 million-dot resolution is something I’ve grown to love on my D850, especially for stealthy shooting, touching an area of the screen and having the camera focus on the touch point and take the picture.

The fact that it takes only one XQD card is not a big issue with me. Though I like the options of choosing JPEGS or making a back-up to a secondary card with my DSLR’s, fact is  I rarely chose those options. Plus I’ve grown comfortable with 128GB cards, which provide plenty of giggage for long shoots even when running 45 megapixel RAW files to the card.

One of the biggest questions in my mind was how the new FTZ Mount Adapter would handle the current F-mount lenses on the new cameras. The Nikon 1 had an adapter that worked, but limited some of the features and only yet you use the center focus point. Happy to say that with most current Nikkor Lenses (93 in total) work seamlessly with regards to AF speed and performance and lenses without VR can now use the camera’s impressive image stabilization.

The weather proofing of my D850 has proven itself when I’ve shot in rainy conditions and Nikon says the new mirrorless camera bodies will be similarly protected from the elements.

One of the great things Nikon does for it’s long time users is to create a feeling of evolution more than revolution maintaining a similar button layout as well as a familiar look and feel with menu systems. Back Button AF is there but the AF Area mode on the side of current Nikon DLSR’s is not, so I’m anxious to see how easy changing AF modes will be. The familiar command and sub-command dials are on the new bodies and apparently there are more menu customization options available than on previous Nikon bodies. Thrilled to report that Nikon has gone with User Settings (U1, U2, U3) a superior way to save your camera settings for different styles of photography over the clumsy and antiquated “Bank” systems maintained in the D5 and D850 DSLR’s… Hallelujah!

I don’t plan to abandon my DSLR’s just yet, thrilled with the masterpiece that is the Nikon D850, and the high-ISO quality of the low-light king of cameras, the Nikon D5. But the writing is on the wall and we will see just how long our beloved (for me at least) DSLR form factor hangs in there. The Z7 is expected to begin delivery late September (hey, that’s in a month!) and the Z6 in late November.

My free Nikon Mirrorless e-Guide should be out by then so click on the cover link above and watch for the Nikon Z Mount System Bootcamp Workshops to pop-up in various cities in 2019. The first one is scheduled for December 8& 9, 2018 in New York City. There is also a Nikon D850 Bootcamp. More info here.

 

Nikon USA Official Press Release: August 23, 2018

Nikon Introduces The New Nikon Z Mount System and Releases Two Full-Frame Mirrorless Cameras: The Nikon Z 7 and Nikon Z 6

MELVILLE, NY – Nikon Inc. is pleased to announce the release of the full-frame (Nikon FX–format) Nikon Z 7 and Nikon Z 6 mirrorless cameras, as well as NIKKOR Z lenses, featuring a new, larger-diameter mount to enable the next generation of ultimate optical performance.Mirrorless Reinvented

The new Nikon Z mount system is comprised of mirrorless cameras and compatible NIKKOR Z lenses and accessories. This system has been realized through the pursuit of a new dimension in optical performance. It has inherited Nikon’s tradition of quality, superior imaging technology, intuitive operability and high reliability, all innovated from its digital SLR cameras.

At the heart of the Z mount system is the new, larger-diameter mount, which unlocks further possibilities of lens design. The Z mount system will offer a variety of high-performance lenses, including the fastest lens in Nikon history, with f/0.951. Additionally, the new mount adapter will enable compatibility with NIKKOR F mount lenses, adding to the range of choices for photographers.

The letter “Z” represents the culmination of Nikon’s relentless pursuit of ultimate optical performance, and a bridge to a new chapter. It is about redefining possibilities to provide image makers with tools to pursue greater creativity.

Nikon will expand the value of mirrorless cameras through the pursuit of a new dimension in optical performance, and by upholding Nikon’s tradition of quality while responding to the evolution of imaging technology. By providing image makers with stimulating new products, Nikon will continue to lead imaging culture.

Z 7, Z 6 Product Overview

The Z 7 and Z 6 are equipped with a new backside illumination Nikon FX-format CMOS sensor with built-in focal-plane phase-detection AF pixels, and the latest image-processing engine, EXPEED 6.

The high-resolution Z 7 has 45.7 effective megapixels, and supports a standard sensitivity range of ISO 64–25600. In combination with NIKKOR Z lenses, the camera achieves an outstanding level of sharpness and detail, all the way to the edges of the image.

The versatile Z 6 is an all-purpose FX-format camera with 24.5 effective megapixels, and supports the wide sensitivity range of ISO 100–51200. With superior performance at high ISO sensitivities and full-frame 4K UHD video capture with full pixel readout, the Z 6 responds to a variety of needs, such as shooting in dimly lit environments and high-quality movie recording.

These two models combine legendary Nikon reliability and a familiar interface with the benefits of a mirrorless, including rapid FPS, hybrid AF, silent shooting and advanced multimedia capabilities.

Primary Features of the Z 7 and Z 6

  1. Equipped with a new backside illumination Nikon FX-format CMOS sensor with focal-plane phase-detection AF pixels

The Z 7 and Z 6 are equipped with a new backside illumination, Nikon FX-format CMOS sensor with focal-plane phase-detection AF pixels, and the latest image-processing engine, EXPEED 6. The Z 7 has 45.7 effective megapixels and supports ISO 64–25600 range of standard sensitivities (reduction to the equivalent of ISO 32 and expansion to the equivalent of ISO 102400 is also possible). The Z 6 has an effective pixel count of 24.5 megapixels, and supports a broad range of standard sensitivities, from ISO 100–51200 (additional reduction to the equivalent of ISO 50 and expansion to the equivalent of ISO 204800).

  1. A fast and accurate hybrid AF system with focus points covering approximately 90% of the imaging area

The Z 7 has 493 focus points2 and the Z 6 has 273 focus points2, enabling broad coverage of approximately 90% of the imaging area both horizontally and vertically. This hybrid AF system uses an algorithm optimized for the FX-format sensor, to automatically switches between focal-plane phase-detection AF and contrast-detect AF when focusing to achieve focus. Newly-designed NIKKOR Z lenses take full advantage of this system, providing faster, quieter and with increased AF accuracy than previously possible for both still images and videos.

  1. The new EXPEED 6 image-processing engine for sharp and clear imaging, and new functions that support creativity

The Z 7 and Z 6 are equipped with the new EXPEED 6 image-processing engine. Employing the superior resolving power of NIKKOR Z and NIKKOR F mount lenses, subjects are rendered more sharply than ever before. Noise is also effectively reduced.

Additionally, a mid-range sharpening option has been added to Picture Control sharpness parameters. This option, along with existing sharpening and clarity parameters, allows users to make various textures within the screen sharper or softer, for both still images and video3. The cameras also offer 20 options of Creative Picture Control, supporting creative imaging expression. The effect level is adjustable from 0 to 100.

  1. An electronic viewfinder that utilizes Nikon’s superior optical and image-processing technologies to offer a clear and natural view

The electronic viewfinder adopted for the Z 7 and Z 6 is comfortable and easy to use, comparable to optical viewfinders. Both cameras are equipped with an electronic viewfinder for which an approximately 3690k-dot OLED panel has been adopted. The electronic viewfinder has frame coverage and magnification of approximately 100% and 0.8×, respectively, as well as an approximately 37.0° diagonal viewing angle. It draws on Nikon’s superior optical technologies and image-processing technologies, ensuring a clear and comfortable view, with reduced aberration and minimum eyestrain, even during extended shoots. Furthermore, a fluorine coat that effectively repels dirt has been applied to the eyepiece protection window. In addition, the <i> menu can be displayed in the electronic viewfinder, allowing users to quickly view and adjust a variety of shooting settings, including ISO sensitivity, AF-area mode, and Picture Control, all while looking through the viewfinder.

  1. An ergonomic design unique to Nikon that enables intuitive and familiar operation

The Z 7 and Z 6 have inherited the superior operability that Nikon has cultivated over the years through its development of cameras. The bodies are compact, while boasting a firm grip that is easy to hold, and the sub-selector and buttons such as AF-ON, ISO, and exposure compensation are all placed so that they can be operated swiftly and easily. Additionally, a display panel has been placed on the top plate of the camera, where information about settings can be displayed, similar to high-end digital SLR camera models.

  1. Video functions such as 10-bit N-Log that enables wide dynamic range, and timecoding that respond to professional needs

The Z 7 and Z 6 support recording of not only full-frame 4K UHD (3840 × 2160)/30p movies using the FX-based video format, but also Full-HD/120p movies. Sharper 4K UHD movies are made possible, using the full-pixel readout4. Additionally, Active D-Lighting, electronic vibration reduction, and focus peaking can be used with 4K UHD and Full-HD movie recording. Nikon’s original N-Log color profile can also be used with 10-bit5 HDMI output. The N-Log setting utilizes extensive color depth and twelve-stop, 1,300% dynamic range to record a wealth of tone information from highlights and shadows for more effective color grading. Timecode support makes synchronizing video and sound from multiple devices easier. Additionally, the control ring built into NIKKOR Z lenses can be used to quietly and smoothly adjust settings such as aperture and exposure compensation.

  1. Nikon’s first6 in-camera vibration reduction with approx. 5.0-stop7 effectiveness

The Z 7 and Z 6 are equipped with in-camera vibration reduction (VR). The VR unit provides compensation for movement along five axes. The effects of vibration reduction are equivalent to a shutter speed up to approximately 5.0 stops6. This function can also be used effectively with NIKKOR F lenses, including those not equipped with a VR function, with the Mount Adapter FTZ (sold separately)8.

  1. Other features
  • Same level of strength and durability, as well as dust- and drip- resistance, as the Nikon D850, offered in a compact body
  • A 3.2-in., approximately 2100k-dot touch-sensitive LCD monitor, with a tilting mechanism
  • Silent photography function eliminates shake and noise caused by shutter release,
  • Peaking stack image function9 enables confirmation of the area in focus after shooting using focus shift, which is convenient for focus stacking10
  • High-speed continuous shooting (extended)11 at approximately 9 fps (Z 7) and 12 fps (Z 6) captures fast motion
  • Interval timer photography that makes 8K (Z 7) time-lapse movie creation10 possible
  • An extended low-light metering range12 allows users to easily capture scenes such as the transition from sunset to starry night sky, using aperture-priority auto exposure
  • Built-in Wi-Fi® for direct connection to a smart device using SnapBridge
  • Built-in Wi-Fi® makes the transfer of images and movies to a computer possible
  • Support for existing digital SLR camera accessories such as the EN-EL15/a/b batteries, WT-7/A/B/C Wireless Transmitter (available separately) for transferring images and movies at high speed over a wired or wireless LAN, and radio-controlled/optical controlled Advanced Wireless Lighting, which makes flexible multi-flash photography possible

Development of the MB-N10 Multi-Power Battery Pack

The MB-N10 Multi-Power Battery Pack that is currently in development will hold two EN-EL15b, effectively increasing the number of shots possible and/or movie recording time by approximately 1.8×. It will provide the same level of dust and drip resistance as the Z 7 and Z 6, and will support USB charging using the EH-7P Charging AC Adapter. Information regarding the release of this product will be announced at a later date.

Price and Availability

The Nikon Z 7 will be available September 27 for a suggested retail price (SRP) of $3399.95* for the body-only configuration, or for $3999.95* SRP as a kit with the new NIKKOR Z 24-70 f/4 S lens. The Nikon Z 6 will be available in late November for the $1995.95* SRP for the body only configuration, or for the $2,599.95* SRP with the NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/4 S lens kit. For more information on these and other Nikon products, please visit www.nikonusa.com.

Written By
More from Steve Simon

Playing Hard To Get – The Lisbon Workshop 2018

We are midway through our advanced workshop in Lisbon and it’s proving...
Read More

5 Comments

  • Hi Steve, I just returned from a two week trip in Morocco with TWO Nikon Z7’s (one mine, one rented). I love the weight and size, but I’m not selling my D850. With the native lens (24-70) the camera is pretty quick on “wake up”, and the focus excellent. With the FTZ adapter, the “wake up” is a lot slower (sort of annoying).

    The quality of images was great, but the banding problem is ***really*** bad. In “silent” mode, if there is a fluorescent light anywhere, you get horrid banding. Seriously awful and the RAW files are totally unusable. I was stunned at the banding. Supposedly it is only in silent mode, but silent is one of the reasons you get mirrorless. Another person had the Z7 on the trip and we both had bad banding on many shots. I deduced that there was a florescent light in all of mine, but in 3rd world countries, you find a lot of florescent lights in environmental portraits.

    You know me and that I know what I am doing in the world of environmental portraits. I’m considering returning the camera if this banding cannot be fixed with a software update. Really unnecessary.

    I’m going to do some more “lab” testing now that I am back in the USA : )

    Patricia

    • Hey Patricia, welcome back! I have been using mine in Lisbon and New York and so far, like you I am enjoying the experience for the most part but it’s different experience from the DSLR (850) so I am adapting. Interestingly I have been shooting a lot of black and white so the banding issue has not been as noticeable to me (I am shooting RAW but haven’t had time to really look closely yet). I have started the E-Guide that I have promised and will look at all issues. Be great to catch up and compare notes in Havana! I think we will have to defer to mechanical shutter when needed. To be honest I love the silent feature option but only really use and need it when I want to be stealthy.

Leave a reply!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.